With AtmaGo, communities rise to the challenge of COVID-19

We want to thank you so much for your support, guidance, and partnership as we work together with communities on the front lines of Covid-19 to meet immediate needs, lift up their voices, and spread the solutions of hundreds of thousands of AtmaGo users in response to the Covid-19 crisis. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and we want to share with you the impacts we’ve had to date, inspiring stories, and what we’ve learned.

  • People used AtmaGo to organize community efforts including making and distributing masks, creating new handwashing stations, training people in medical readiness, and educating people on how to communicate to elders about slowing the spread of Covid-19. 
  • There were over 2,000 posts related to Covid-19, and these were viewed 292,312 times and further amplified via AtmaGo social media.
  • And, these posts are changing behavior. In a survey, 85% of respondents said that they will change their behavior (handwashing, social distancing) as a result of information on AtmaGo.
  • To respond immediately to the need for psychosocial support, AtmaGo rapidly launched a free telecounseling service on covid19.atmago.com. There has been significant interest from women in the community to speak with female counselors. Cases of domestic violence have been increasing as a result of lockdowns globally. 
  • So far, telecounseling clients have reported an average 55% decrease in negative emotions (as measured by the Subjective Unit of Disturbance test, which was administered pre and post counselling). 
  • We also conducted a needs assessment on Covid-19 impacts. Within a few days we received 711 responses. Over 90% of respondents reported that they were concerned about increasing unemployment and the economic downturn, over 40% identified the need for better targeted government assistance, over 35% noted concerns about hoax information on Covid online and increases in crime.
  • People in Puerto Rico are using AtmaGo to build and amplify mutual support and resilience by recognizing unsung Heroes with Masks, and spreading awareness on gardening to improve food security.

Hamzah Ancha from Sulawesi says: “AtmaGo makes it easy for civil society or anyone who wants to share important news or information about events around us. AtmaGo is also a trusted source of information for the public, especially in the current pandemic conditions where hoax information is now scattered, especially from Facebook and other social media.”

We are humbled by the dedication of AtmaGo users in building mutual support communities to help one another and take collective action during this critical time. We look forward to sharing with you more about the incredible impacts your investment and belief in the power of people helping people will have in the months ahead.

With gratitude,

Meena Palaniappan
CEO and Founder
Atma Connect

Heroes with Masks – Héroes con Mascarillas

In every crisis, there are heroes. In the Covid-19 crisis Puerto Ricans have praised police, nurses, and doctors by hanging banners and posting memes on social media about their heroic efforts. These are the most visible heroes of this pandemic. And, there are others  who are behind the scenes and also on the front lines — people who stock and work at grocery stores, those who bring groceries to elderly and disabled community members, and people who are helping to bridge the digital divide for children continuing the school year at home.

On AtmaGo, an incredible user, Mariny (pictured below), is sharing the stories of these unsung heroes to amplify the spirit of mutual aid throughout Puerto Rican communities.

Mariny, a community leader of Naguabo, a municipality located in the eastern portion of the island, began highlighting community members going about their everyday lives and how their small and yet inspirational gestures are having a lasting impact in their communities on PR.AtmaGo.com. Her posts celebrate the courage of everyday individuals on the frontlines of this pandemic, grocery store attendants, nurses, community leaders, and small, family owned corner stores meeting the immediate needs of the community, educating on hygiene practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and organizing to prepare for the short and long term impacts of this pandemic on their communities.

In one post she highlights the work of Maribel, a 2nd generation community leader who runs the community space her father established to serve as a resource for the residents of Naguabo. Her work during the pandemic has been to organize the distribution of groceries to elderly community members and coordinate a group of volunteer nurses to follow up on bed ridden community members. Through the community center Maribel provides support to families with children making sure students in the community have access to their lessons by printing them, understanding that the digital divide is a reality for most of the residents in Naguabo and that most children would not have access to their lessons if it were not for the printing facilities available at the center. Maribel also utilizes her skills as a graphic designer to create educational resources on COVID-19 for her community.

In another post, Mariny highlights Cynthia, a community leader of barrio Duque in Naguabo. Mariny writes that Cynthia is a hero from a threefold battle: she is a survivor of cancer, her spouse is a dialysis patient, and she is a clerk at a supermarket chain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mariny shares that like many, despite the concern of getting infected, Cynthia has no choice but to continue going to work to make a livelihood for her household. After work, Cynthia checks in with residents in her community, ensuring the wellbeing of her neighbors, especially those who live by themselves, and coordinating the delivery of any donated resources to the most vulnerable in her area. In this post, Mariny highlights that Cynthia’s strengths, her superhero powers, are her lived experiences and her faith, and this is what gives her the courage to continue. 

 In her posts, Mariny emphasizes the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling out the courage of these heros with masks, even when having to confront people who are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. In several other posts Mariny highlights other community leaders in the region of Naguabo using the opportunity of bringing cooked food and groceries to elderly and families in their communities to teach about important hygiene practices to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus and how to correctly use a face mask. 

 Our goal is to build and amplify AtmaGo’s role as a tool that will create behavior change to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis, create localized mutual support communities to address immediate needs during the COVID-19 crisis, and address long term recovery through governance and economic empowerment on the platform.

 There is a need for a central resource hub that synthesizes official information and that serves as a repository for community members to share their needs and stories during this period. The power of these stories to shift behavior and foster online and offline mutual support communities will have rippling effects in saving lives and mitigate the impact of economic loss by bolstering social stability and cohesion. 

En solidaridad,

Natasha Mevs-Korff
Partnerships and Operations Associate
Atma Connect

Ramadan and Community in the time of Covid-19: Conversation with Zain Ahmed

“Let’s welcome the blessing Ramadan as a moment to break the chain of transmission of the plague for the sake of personal safety, relatives and the entire nation.” – Indonesian President Joko Widodo

The holy month of Ramadan is vital for Covid-19 response in Indonesia and around the world. This fasting month, focused on community, family, and charity, has already begun. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and, each year, millions return home to their villages across the archipelago at the end of the month. To date, over 590 people have died from Covid-19 in Indonesia – the highest toll in Asia outside China – and experts fear that travel will spread the disease further. Ensuring community members receive support during this time, connect online, and adhere to health guidelines is critical to slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Atma Connect community member and supporter Zain Ahmed spoke with Atma about the connections he has made between Ramadan, flattening the curve during Covid-19, and Atma Connect. Zain is an aerodynamicist working in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and a former coordinator at the (affirming) Calgary Alberta Unity Mosque. (Photo credit: Toronto Star)

“My perspective on Islam is seeing Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) as having taken the role of a psychologist, speaking to people at their level and demonstrating excellent character in a relatable way. He strived to work within his culture at a grassroots level to bring out the very best in people. And this is why I value Atma. Atma works to provide tools that will bring out the very best in people in a way that is self-propagating. It too seeks to help and connect people, as they are, in a grassroots way.” – Zain Ahmed, Atma Connect Supporter

AtmaGo, our neighbors helping neighbors app and programming, is working to flatten the curve through digital events, trainings, and mutual support. People are using the app to inform their neighbors about Covid-19 risks and prevention and to catalyze behavior change for the good of their communities. The importance of honouring one’s neighbors from all walks of life, a connection Zain has made between Atma and Ramadan, is emphasized across many faiths. To Zain, the very premise of Atma is establishing and elevating the connections of neighbors, empowering people to help each other and share information and, inspiring improved livelihood and well-being. Another of the related Islamic teachings that have stood out for Zain during this time of Covid-19 is, “If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it.” (Sahih Bukhari 5396). To Zain, this is social distancing. Additionally, one of the ideas of fasting during Ramadan is that it is an invisible worship and source of connection through inaction. It is connection through inaction — where Muslims are connecting with a higher power by not eating and drinking and by being extra conscious to not harm others. Similarly, in this time of Covid-19 we are abstaining from in-person connection, being extra conscious not to harm others, and finding alternative ways to support one another. 

Zain ended his conversation with Atma with a lesson from a teacher: “Often we get so stuck on trying to do what we are supposed to do that we miss its essence. Let us be good to our neighbors and uplift each other, this Ramadan and beyond inshaAllah. Let us spread rahmah (grace) through resilience, and let us spread resilience through Atma.”

Community Centered Communication for Behavior Change: Launching the AtmaGo Covid-19 Website

“I’ve been on the ground responding to Ebola and Cholera outbreaks, and what I know is this: You can’t treat your way out of outbreaks. You need to “behavior” your way out of outbreaks. There is never enough treatment available – you need to change behavior to get the outbreak contained to a treatable level.” Harlan Hale, who has spent a career in disaster response at OFDA.

 The problem is that communication for behavior change is not reaching the last mile or the most vulnerable people, and people don’t trust the sources of this information. Indonesia and Puerto Rico are at particular risk for Covid-19. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, and had the highest death toll in Southeast Asia. And, Puerto Rico has an aging population with insufficient health infrastructure. 

The key to saving lives, and ultimately restoring economies, will be ensuring everyone, especially the most vulnerable, has trusted information to change their behavior, access to support and resources, and the ability to communicate their needs and receive help from governments and NGOs.

I am so proud of the entire AtmaGo team, and the long days and nights that have been spent in creating and rapidly launching a community-centered, all in one resource on Covid-19 (pictured below).

 The Covid micro-site we have built (covid19.atmago.com) is a real time, all-in-one community-centered resource that brings together:

  • Official information about Covid-19 cases and mortality;
  • Hotlines to access help;
  • An “I have/I need” system so that people can ask for help from their neighbors or volunteer resources for  community members;
  • Community-centered videos, infographics, and comics from our multi-talented Community Manager David Khoirul that make information on staying healthy and protecting against Covid-19 accessible to everyone;
  • Stories from Corona, where community members throughout Indonesia share on audio and video what they are doing to slow the spread of the Covid-19 and how they are coping with movement restrictions. Trusted communication from people in similar situations is fundamental to generate the trust needed for behavior change;
  • User-generated information from locations through Indonesia about government resources, community information and response to Covid-19 which links back to AtmaGo. 

 Covid-19 content on AtmaGo has already been viewed over 200,000 times. 

The Dalai Lama said: “This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another—even when we are living apart.” 

 In the midst of the unprecedented challenges that the pandemic has brought, on AtmaGo we are truly seeing the many rays of hope, community and connection. 

 In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing with you the impact that AtmaGo and AtmaGo’s resourceful and ingenious users will have in helping one another, amplifying their voices and needs, and setting the foundation for equitable recovery. 

Sincerely,

Meena Palaniappan
Atma Connect Founder and CEO

AtmaGo – supporting each other in this time of COVID crisis

As the impact of the coronavirus spreads across the nation and the world, we’re reaching out to let you know that our focus remains on empowering community members so they can respond to this pandemic and help one another in this time of need. COVID-19 is affecting us all and, as in times of disaster and crisis, marginalized populations are hit the hardest. These folks are AtmaGo users and they are already on the app to support each other and slow the spread of the virus. So far, from January 1, through March 14, 2020 there have been 69,643 views of posts related to COVID-19.

AtmaGo users are:

Sharing life-saving information

Connecting online and taking action

  • We are addressing social isolation by building community engagement online. Those who cannot leave their homes can make a difference in this time of crisis.
  • On AtmaGo people uplift each other, post positive content, and use it for psychosocial support

Fighting the spread of fake news

  • We fight the spread of misinformation and fake news with community ambassadors and staff who monitor and approve content.
  • 81% of users say they trust the information on AtmaGo. Accurate and trusted information is critical for appropriate action and resilience.

AND we need your support to take this effort to the next level

We are already hard at work developing new processes and features to support those who are most vulnerable. We are creating a dedicated COVID information and communication system so neighbors can help neighbors during this crisis. Atma needs support in developing: 

  • An I have/I need system where people within local areas can provide and request immediate support to/from their neighbors
  • A way to communicate emergency relief and services being rolled out during this period in their immediate area
  • A way to connect people to organizations providing psychosocial support during the lockdown period
  • A way to share and highlight resources and solutions around caring for family members, especially children and elderly
  • A needs assessment, via AtmaGo, to support government officials and iNGOs in identifying unmet needs so that aid and services can be more effectively delivered
  • Virtual citizen journalism and community advocacy training to engage and bring in new users to our platform. The crisis is just beginning and we need to continue to train communities on the importance of advocating for their needs to create the public policies that will support their resilience.

This is one of the most critical moments of our lifetime and we need your support to flatten the curve and help those most affected by this crisis.

We could not do this work without you!

Sincerely,

Ari Turrentine

Operations and Program Director, Atma Connect 

P.S. Every dollar counts so please donate something meaningful to you whether it is $5 or $5K.

 

Citizen Journalism Empowers Local Activists in Puerto Rico

On Presidents Day, a circle of women and neighbors came together to learn how to build community resilience through citizen journalism. Citizen journalism, as the name suggests, is a movement to empower people to report, responsibly and accurately, on local stories that are overlooked by government and larger media organizations. 

Atma Connect’s training focuses on how citizen journalists can use AtmaGo to bring attention to local problems, build social cohesion, and improve disaster resilience. And after the terrible blows that this island has taken, we need that resilience more than ever.

Participants in Atma Connect's first Citizen Journalism workshop held in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

With that as the setting, the workshop, held in Arecibo, met for three hours of instruction and discussion. Attendees learned about best practices in digital reporting, ethics of journalism, and how to amplify their community’s voice with AtmaGo, which was launched just a few months ago in Puerto Rico.

Atma’s Citizen Journalism Workshops always ask attendees to get out and make a post — and our first class in Puerto Rico generated some fascinating stories and posts. 

One participant wrote about an illegal dump site located near her home and the frustrations her community has with it — and she also highlighted that residents of her condominium and neighbors are organizing to place a community garden on the illegal dump site. She used AtmaGo to amplify her message that she wants “to transform the space into a place where neighbors can harvest health, hope and peace.” 

Another participant featured a recurring environmental awareness event in her community which highlights the diverse ecosystems within the community. The goal of the event is to educate the public and instill responsibility for caring for these spaces. She used AtmaGo to share her message that she wants each resident to feel “a sense of ownership of these ecosystems to ensure their commitment to conserving them.”

We are looking forward to bringing more communities together through these citizen journalism and community resilience workshops to showcase the powerful resilience work happening on the ground. The citizen journalists from this first workshop will create additional events in their community and share their initiatives on AtmaGo — we look forward to seeing their work make an impact.